Appel à communication : « Mobility and the Experience of Nature in the 19th century. Landscape painting : an art of travel ? » (Munich, 3-5 juillet 2015)

Renoir-Monet_paintingCall for Papers

Mobility and the Experience of Nature in the Nineteenth Century

Landscape Painting: An Art of Travel?

International Symposium, Christoph Heilmann Stiftung at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (3-5 July, 2015)

Among contemporary biographies of the ever-growing number of landscape painters in the nineteenth century, scarcely one failed to refer extensively to travels undertaken, whether near or far. While landscape painters generally had a town studio, they were also highly mobile. Given the new interest in the directest possible contact with nature, and in the investigation of distant regions and their inhabitants, it was no longer possible to rely on views transmitted in the form of prints, or on some canon of ideal compositions. A glance at the numerous instruction handbooks being produced for landscape painters at the time, such as that of Pierre-Henri Valenciennes, the leading French landscape artist of the period, reveals just how fundamental travel had become in the landscape painter’s artistic training and in the shaping of his identity. In no other age was the landscape painter, who no longer wished to be seen as representing an inferior genre, more strongly subject to a paradigm of mobility as in the nineteenth century. This even led to the emergence of a new type of painting: the oil study – hastily executed, easily transported, yet at the same time relying on subtly perceived nuances of colour. Its swift execution enabled artists to do justice to nature’s constantly changing appearance depending on time of day, season, and weather. The oil study’s fluent brushwork conveyed a dynamic, travel-induced heightening of perception that lent its subjects a new authenticity.  Within a European context the symposium will be focusing on landscape painting considered as an « art of travel”. Initially reserved to nobility, travelling in the form of the grand tour was taken up by broader social classes as of around 1800, likewise by poets and artists in the wake of Romantic art discourse, and extended its radius with ever-increasing speed in the course of the nineteenth century – from walk, hike and wanderschaft to coach ride, rail journey and sea voyage. The big studios of the history painters were static loci of creation in the cities as they expanded into pulsating metropolises. The landscape art of the period, in contrast, proposed a counter-model. Compared to studio art and its increasingly elaborate oversize formats, it inclined to intimacy and found in the paysage intime, which developed in close symbiosis with the oil study, a trend-setting form that eventually issued in the landscape art of Impressionism. Parallel to the new forms of transport, what one might call « mobile studios” developed, with portable painting chests, long-life tube paints, and card instead of canvas. These could be carried far abroad – to Italy, Greece, North Africa – or used nationally and locally, outside the city gates or in the surrounding countryside – Paris / Barbizon, Munich / Alpine Uplands.  Artists’ journeys undertaken at the behest of noblemen or on diplomatic service can look back on a long tradition. The present enquiry, however, addresses the new motivations for artists’ travel stemming from Romanticism, the genius aesthetic, anti-academic trends, and not least against the backdrop of the major political upheavals of the period. Though in many places the first independent professorships for landscape painting were being founded, the genre rapidly fled the lecture halls to evolve outside of hierarchical structures in mutual exchange between artists and in direct contact with nature. The dynamics of travel shaped the dynamics of the cross-fertilization among landscape painters, enabling the landscape picture to develop into a European art form par excellence. The symposium will trace these interrelationships and at the same time contribute to research on the transfer of new techniques and/or culture. What role did art centres such as Paris or Rome assume? When were they supplemented by new landscape centres, Munich included, and which artists played a key role in the process?  Further, the question arises precisely what the qualities and functions of the oil study were that facilitated its rapid spread, thereby aiding the paysage intime on its road to success. Did the oil study serve purely as a souvenir, a memento in the broadest sense for work in the town studio, or did it offer a field for experiment and familiarization in translating direct perception into the two-dimensional, painted picture? What mutual influences, or competition, existed between the oil study in its memorial function and the traditional sketch, also new media such as early landscape photography? How did painters on their travels acquire the valuable paints that they needed or learn of suitable destinations? Under what conditions did such artists live? How did they earn a livelihood when far from home if they were not part of a financially secure group doing the grand tour? What role did oil studies play among artists? Were they passed on to colleagues and pupils as gifts and/or work aids? What effect did they have on aesthetic taste, and when did they become respectable and/or marketable art objects?  The symposium on landscape painting as an art of travel will take as its starting point the collection of European landscape pictures and oil studies in the Christoph Heilmann Stiftung, housed on permanent loan in the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus since 2013. It will also draw on the rich tradition of Munich landscape painting that had begun to develop as early as the reign of Max Joseph I and especially under the art-loving King Ludwig I. It was in this period that the Bavarian capital became an important centre and destination for European landscape painters.  The symposium at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, which aims to explore the subject as interdisciplinarily as possible and from multiple perspectives, will also offer generous opportunities for discussion. This call for papers is broadly addressed to historians of art and culture, literary scholars and researchers, art technologists, and historians of science.  Concept: Claudia Denk, Christoph Heilmann, Andreas Strobl (Christoph Heilmann Stiftung) The plan is to publish the papers following the symposium. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered.

Please send proposals (max. 3,000 characters) for papers of approximately 20 minutes to (Closing date for proposals: 22 December, 2014).


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